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And the nominees are... A breakdown of this year's Mercury shortlist...

CultureCritic | 13.September.2012 | 16:18

The nominations for this year’s much-coveted Mercury Prize were announced Yesterday. Set up in 1992 to celebrate the best music from the UK and Ireland, and to reward genuine musical innovation, it’s choices are regularly met with something of a collective sigh from certain quarters of the music press – leading to alternatives such as The Quietus’ Jovian Bow Shock Prize and Drowned in Sound’s Neptune Prize.

The list, it’s fair to say, is a little underwhelming this year. Maybe it’s just what we need to calm down after a summer of feeling a little too proud to be British (especially when you compare it to Canada’s equivalent Polaris Prize shortlist).

Mercury judges chairman Simon Frith said this year’s shortlist ‘showcases the abiding ability of British musicians to find new ways to explore traditional themes of love and loss while making an exhilarating soundtrack for life in 2012.’ Hmm. He also claimed there’s ‘no standout’ record, and might just be right on that one…

Folk music is certainly popular now, but not the traditional English sort plied by Sam Lee, a probable outsider. His debut Ground of its Own features songs taught to him by the Gypsy Traveller community and should appeal to fans of previous nominees The Unthanks.

The folk that makes the charts is the sort made by another former nominated band Mumford and Sons, and folk-rap ‘sensation’ Ed Sheeran, who, incidentally, might feel robbed by the inclusion on the list of Ben Howard for his debut album Every Kingdom. Howard’s record belongs to a grand tradition that stretches back to David Gray (cruelly never nominated), and beyond: a man, his acoustic guitar, and a heartfelt delivery – that’s innovation, right?

There’s other stuff in a similar vein on the list, including Michael Kiwanuka’s Home Again and Lianne La Havas’ Is Your Love Big Enough?, who both add further soul to the mix.

Some surviving members of the indie school of 2005 are still going strong. Sunshine Underground, Hadouken! and (former winners) Klaxons might have fallen by the wayside but Brighton’s The Maccabees are doing something right, nominated for their third album Given To The Wild. Who says guitar music is dead? The Guardian do.

Obviously they’ve not heard the new Alt-J. record An Awesome Wave, which has been described as ‘folk-step’ (see, more folk) and features a falsetto that reminds us of Wild Beasts. It’s ‘much better than average indie fare’ according to the Sun.

Sunderland’s finest Field Music are nominated for Plumb (more on that here) and Scottish formed Django Django‘s super psychy debut is also nominated, probably fulfilling the aforementioned criteria more than most on here. Listen to the excellent ‘Hail Bop’ from their album below...


Richard Hawley gets his second Mercury nomination for Standing at the Sky’s Edge,  which, if you trust our Critometer, is among the best records of the year so far. Second time unlucky? Remember, it’s better to be nominated than to win…

This year’s jazz mention is the leftfield self-titled album by Roller Trio, and there’s a nomination for Jessie Ware’s very listenable debut album Devotion which has nice synths, nice vocals and is nice and smooth. Oh, and Plan B for his Ill Manors soundtrack, who according to some sources, (absurdly we think), is the favourite.


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